ATSDR’s Role

This section explains the role of ATSDR staff in the PHA process.

ATSDR staff include environmental health scientists, toxicologists, health educators, physicians, behavioral scientists, engineers, communications specialists, and public health program specialists. These staff perform a variety of functions, including the following:

  • Identify sources of contamination, characterize exposures to people, and make recommendations to protect human health.
  • Evaluate, and sometimes conduct, environmental and biological sampling to determine whether individuals are being exposed to unhealthy levels of environmental contamination.
  • Synthesize health information on hazardous substances and provide information to the general public, communities, and healthcare providers treating persons exposed to these hazardous substances.
  • Train local healthcare providers and educate community members about health matters related to the local environment through workshops, availability sessions, public meetings, health fairs, and other activities.

Many ATSDR staff members take on roles and functions in the PHA process as shown in this table, as well as work with staff from CDC (i.e., ATSDR’s sister agency) such as those with the National Center for Environmental Health (NCEH). Everyone involved in the PHA process is working toward the overarching goal of reducing people’s exposures to contaminants in the environment.

Who is Involved in the PHA Process

Who is Involved in the PHA Process
Roles and Functions in the PHA Process
ATSDR health assessors
  • Conduct public health assessments, health consultations, exposure investigations, health advisories, technical assists, and petitioned site evaluations.
  • Usually lead the evaluations and are in charge of developing the reports.
  • Look at the effects of environmental exposures and suggests ways to protect people’s health.
  • Give technical help to communities, states, tribes, and other agencies.
ATSDR communication specialists
  • Get communities involved in public health activities, coordinates communications and public health messaging, and supplies health education materials to those communities.
  • Work with ATSDR tribal programs and helps with environmental justice activities.
ATSDR regional representatives
  • Facilitate program implementation in the regions; regional representatives are often the first contacts on petitions, regional EPA requests, and state requests.
  • Maintain current and historic knowledge of the sites and issues in the regions.
  • Engage in emergency response and preparedness activities.
  • Provide support to tribes.
ATSDR scientific support staff
  • Provide expertise or specialized skills to the site team.
  • May include toxicologists, epidemiologists, geospatial analysts, data modelers, or others.
ATSDR headquarters managers
  • Need to be involved and kept informed on the PHA process activities and progress for many sites.
  • Coordinate notifications when there are policy implications related to PHA process activities at a site.
Page last reviewed: August 4, 2022